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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Even the Beggar Chooses by Khurshid Alam

Even the Beggar Chooses by Khurshid Alam

Every morning I stood at the Bamboo Villa bus stop in central Calcutta for my office, a beggar at the footpath used to salute me in gesture. Wordless greetings convey the meaning explicit cutting cultural barrier. But I refused to make a meaning to his salutation lest the onlookers spot me and shrug at me. Association often brings you value.

Months passed. It was winter then. I saw him he felt the sting of cold in the rags. He smiled at me with the same gesture. I took compassion on him now. The next day I brought a used old sweater and offered it to him.

‘Please wait for a minute’, he said. Though I had turned away from him, I had to hold. While I was waiting, he was busy inspecting the sweater I offered. He examined the selvage, checked the helm, turned the chest pocket inside out, and rubbed the cloth at an end. He checked it with a master’s hand many times over, in and out. I couldn’t understand what he was trying to descry. I was but watching him with stifling passion.

‘It’s of no use to me, sir. Please take it back’, he returned the sweater with a cold face. The smile was absent from his face this time. I was dumb. I took the sweater scratching my head thinking why he returned it.

He saw it rather with an eye of a seller than with an eye of a user. My sweater fell short of sartorial elegance on one hand and was far away from raffish frame at another. It was not as good that he could sell it, and earn money. It was neither as bad that he could wear it himself. My sweater did not qualify for a beggar’s uniform: he then could not sell his abject condition and win the compassion of the people. So it was of no use to him. He returned the sweater with a great choice.

His this behaviour reminded me of the situation when Rabindranath Tagore once gave a ‘gold coin’ to a beggar in London, and the beggar returned it to him too coldly.

Note: This story has been written in commemoration of gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's 151st birth anniversary this May.

Author’s Bio: Khurshid Alam is a senior technical writer with an IT company and writer and editor with CLRI.


  1. The best way to give a tribute to Rabindrantah Tagore.

  2. Khurshid,
    One day, I had stopped my bike at the Mahalakshmi Station signal for it to change to green.Just as I was looking around, a beggar approched me with his outstreched right hand.Showing emapathy, I took out a five rupee coin and gave it to the urchin.He took the coin in his hand and after studying it, he returned it to me with a dry comment_____

    {" Aaj kal bahute mehngahi hi, kum se kum dus rupaya to do"}

    Manohar Bhatia.


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